#48 Lance Oppenheim (Some Kind of Heaven)

Director Lance Oppenheim on Safe (1995), Larry Sultan’s masterworks, Bigger than Life (1956), and more!

Cool people like cool things, which is why we asked cool person Lance Oppenheim to come on Perfectly Imperfect & spread the hot rec wealth.

Lance’s feature documentary and directorial debut, “Some Kind of Heaven”, was produced by Darren Aronofsky and explores life inside the manicured lawns and meticulously crafted suburban bliss in The Villages, Florida, the self-described “Disneyworld for Retirees”— the film has been making waves (and not just on this newsletter). He’s the youngest contributor to The New York Times Op-Docs series with films such as “Long Term Parking” and “The Happiest Guy in the World”. Lance is someone to keep an eye on and lucky for us, he’s here to talk about what he’s been into.

Without further ado

Lance Oppenheim (twitter, instagram)

While editing SOME KIND OF HEAVEN, my editor Daniel Garber and I hosted “research” screenings for our friends/collaborators/neighbors, where we would screen and discuss work that was (somewhat?) related to our film over beers. Many of the films/tunes/books on this list examine the underlying eeriness of suburban sprawl, a theme that exists throughout our film. Hope you enjoy!

📽️ SAFE (1995)

Todd Haynes’ SAFE is one of the best films of the nineties, and it’s a film we referenced a lot during our time on SOME KIND OF HEAVEN for its visual language. Julianne Moore plays Carol, a LA homemaker who inexplicably becomes ill with what seems to be a chronic and extreme aversion to her environment. When mainstream medicine offers no answers, she has to search elsewhere for help. The movie plays as a horror film where the only villains are Carol’s environment and frail body. The movie is engrossing and enigmatic, refusing easy answers and tidy resolutions. And lord knows, it’s become far more relevant today. 

📽️ ✂️ EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990)

This was a big one for us. The framing, color pallete, and pop- Americana imagery. I love how Burton envelops his audience into something far darker than you’re signing up for, and ensnaring the suburban landscape in what becomes a somewhat nightmarish hall of mirrors. 

📷 PICTURES FROM HOME (1992) and THE VALLEY (2004)

Larry Sultan’s masterworks. My cinematographer David Bolen and I drew so much from both of these books, not just stylistically but also from Sultan’s process of “riffing off of reality.” These two books informed the look of our film, encouraging us to dig deeper and find the proper visual language that reflected our Utopian setting. We wanted the film to look somewhere between a Sultan photo and the Technicolor sheen in a Douglas Sirk Melodrama. 

🎬 BIGGER THAN LIFE (1956)

My favorite Nicholas Ray movie. A Proto-Lynchian descent into madness that picks apart the American dream. I love how subjective the film becomes, as we get closer and closer to a completely unhinged James Mason. A true portrait of a disintegrating man. 

🎵 THE NIGHT THE CAROUSEL BURNED DOWN (1972)

My favorite Todd tune. Hauntingly cinematic. This was a big reference for us on our score. We attempted to combine elements of Todd’s psychedelic breakdowns with exotica and romantic noirs (Nelson Riddle and Hermann) to capture the mental and emotional landscapes of our subjects. This song felt that way for us. Something that felt more like a dreamscape. 

🎵 TOMORROWLAND (2021) and THEIR EYES (2017)

Two tracks from my composer Ari Balouzian’s band. Textured with hints of lounge music and swooning strings, both of these songs contain the same pleasantly disorienting unreality as The Villages itself. 

BONUS ROUND

🎬 SHORT CUTS (1993) - Robert Altman 

🎬 GLORIA (2013) and GLORIA BELL (2019)- Sebastian Lelio

🎬 COCOON - Ron Howard 

🎬 THE BEACH BUM - Harmony Korine 

🎬 MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION - Douglas Sirke 

📚 DAYS OF PERKY PAT (1963) - Philip K. Dick 

🎵 SURFBOARD - Esquivel!

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